Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV
Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV (HbbTV) is both an industry standard (ETSI TS 102 796) and promotional initiative for hybrid digital TV to harmonise the broadcast, IPTV, and broadband delivery of entertainment to the end consumer through connected TVs (smart TVs) and set-top boxes. The HbbTV consortium, regrouping digital broadcasting and Internet industry companies, is establishing a standard for the delivery of broadcast TV and broadband TV to the home, through a single user interface, creating an open platform as an alternative to proprietary technologies. Products and services using the HbbTV standard can operate over different broadcasting technologies, such as satellite, cable, or terrestrial networks.
HbbTV is the association of two projects born in February 2009, with the French H4TV project and the German HTML profil project.
HbbTV can show digital television content from a number of different sources including traditional broadcast TV, Internet, and connected devices in the home. To watch hybrid digital TV, consumers will need a hybrid IPTV set-top box with a range of input connectors, including Ethernet as well as at least one tuner for receiving broadcast TV signals. The tuner in a hybrid set-top box can be digital terrestrial television (DVB-T, DVB-T2 ), digital cable (DVB-C, DVB-C2) and digital satellite (DVB-S, DVB-S2).
HbbTV was first demonstrated in 2009, in France by France Télévisions and two developers of Set Top Box technologies, Inverto Digital Labs of Luxembourg, and Pleyo of France, for the Roland Garros tennis sport event on a DTT transmission and an IP connection and in Germany using the Astra satellite at 19.2° east during the IFA and IBC exhibitions.
In June 2014, the HbbTV Association merged with the Open IPTV Forum, a similar industry organisation for end-to-end Internet Protocol television (IPTV) services formed in 2007, which worked closely with the HbbTV initiative on browser and media specifications for network-connected televisions and set-top boxes. The two initiatives were combined under the HbbTV Association’s banner because the markets for IPTV, OTT and hybrid broadcast and broadband TV are converging.
Applications and consumer products
Services delivered through HbbTV include enhanced teletext, catch-up services, video-on-demand, EPG, interactive advertising, personalisation, voting, games, social networking, and other multimedia applications.
At the May 2010 Broadcast and Beyond Conference in London, Thomas Wrede, VP Product Management Media at SES, said that he expected HbbTV devices to be launched commercially from June 2010 with a consumer market introduction at the IFA consumer electronics trade fair in Berlin in September 2010. Wrede also noted that Humax and Videoweb both had conformant products and that at the recent ANGA Cable trade fair in Cologne, 12 manufacturers exhibited HbbTV devices, with another six working on product introduction.
HbbTV devices enables consumers to view all of these advanced services on their flat screen TV, via a single device. In addition to a broader range of content from TV providers – ranging from traditional broadcast TV, video on-demand and catch-up TV services, like BBC iPlayer – hybrid digital TV also provides consumers with access to user-generated content either stored on an external hard drive, or cloud storage, and to a range of advanced interactive services and Internet applications.
Hybrid set-top boxes are increasingly commonplace amongst pay-TV operators, as they look to meet the changing media consumption trends for more video content, advanced interactivity and internet applications, like social networking. Operators like n, a division of ITI Neovision in Poland, and Telekom Austria are two of the leaders in the deployment of hybrid set-top boxes. The 2010 IPTV World Forum Awards recognized a hybrid solution as the best interactive TV service/application: the solution, developed by Advanced Digital Broadcast, is the first three-way hybrid platform that enables content delivered via Satellite, Terrestrial and Ethernet networks to be viewed on a television.
The HbbTV consortium has over 50 supporting members from the CE and Broadcast industries, including:
- Standardisation & research bodies: Digital TV Group, EBU, Fraunhofer IIS, Fraunhofer FOKUS, IRT, TNO
- Broadcasting: Abertis Telecom, Canal+, Eutelsat, France Télévisions, NRJ 12, RTL Group, Astra, TDF, TF1
- Middleware editors for CE devices: ANT Software Ltd, iPlus Technologies, OpenTV, Opera Software, Access, Espial, HTTV, Irdeto, NDS, Kudelski, Viaccess, Motive Television 
- CE devices and components manufacturers: TP Vision, Samsung, Sony, LG, LOEWE, Sharp, STMicroelectronics, Humax, Haier, Kaon Media, TechniSat, TechnoTrend, iPlus Technologies
- Test Houses for CE devices: Digital TV Labs
The full list of companies officially supporting the initiative is provided on the HbbTV website.
The HbbTV consortium steering group members are: Abertis, Astra, Ant Software Ltd, Digital TV Labs, European Broadcasting Union, France Télévisions, IRT, OpenTV, Opera, RTL, Samsung, Sony, TF1, TP Vision.
In May 2011, in an email sent on behalf of the HbbTV Consortium steering group, supporters of the consortium were invited to become full members. The transitional arrangements towards the opening of membership would involve withdrawal of a number of privileges, including participation in meetings and contribution to further versions of the specification, from supporters that did not sign up. The cost of membership is around €7,000 for the first year.
As well as helping consumers/viewers, the introduction of the HbbTV standard is of benefit to both equipment manufacturers and content providers who at the moment have to produce hardware or content specific to each country to meet the de facto standard in that country. The establishment of a unified European HbbTV standard means "content owners and application developers can write once and deploy to many countries".
The HbbTV specification was developed by industry members of the consortium and is based on elements of existing standards and web technologies including the Open IPTV Forum, CEA, DVB, and W3C.
The standard specification has been submitted by the end of November 2009 to ETSI, who published it under reference ETSI TS 102 796 in June 2010. There is an accompanying Test Suite that provides a set of test material to test HbbTV device implementations, suitable for manufacturers of devices, including software and hardware components that implement the HbbTV specification (ETSI TS 102 796 v1.1.1). In November 2012 Digital TV Labs became the first Registered Test Centre.
The applications for HbbTV are HTML based, but utilise only a sub-set of standard web standards, developers have to use specialist validation tools.
Several countries worldwide, and in Europe in particular, have adopted the HbbTV standard and/or operated HbbTV services and trials. As at December 2011, HbbTV services are in regular operation in France, Germany and Spain, with announcements of adoption in Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Denmark, Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Turkey, and trials in Australia, China, Japan, and the United States.
In 2010 German broadcaster RTL Television introduced a new information service, HD Text, making use of HbbTV and the CE-HTML user interface language, and in 2012 launched an online music video service (Clipfish Music) on its HbbTV portal allowing access to TV viewers.
In 2011 the Dutch national public networks, Nederland 1, 2, and 3 began broadcasting HbbTV "red button" applications including an program guide and catch-up TV instead of developing separate apps for particular platforms.
In France, the government-owned public broadcaster, France Télévisions selected HbbTV for its interactive news, sports and weather service, and plans to add catch-up TV and social media sharing capability. International French news channel France 24 has announced that it will launch an HbbTV interactive news service in 2012 via the Astra 19.2°E satellites, with support from Orange and SES.
In November 2011 Spain’s Ministry of Industry approved a document signed by 54 companies adopting the HbbTV standard and broadcasters, Mediaset España, Canal+ and Telefónica have run pilot services.
The first tests of HbbTV services in Poland were started by TVN in March 2012.
In the UK, most broadcasters have not adopted the HbbTV standard but Freesat, the free-to-air satellite TV service broadcast via Astra 28.2°E, has revealed that the second generation "G2" specification for Freesat receivers will use HbbTV, to take advantage of the digital TV chipsets being developed for that standard (but retaining MHEG-5 compatibility of the first generation Freesat receivers). While the Digital TV Group approved D-book 7, a detailed interoperability specification between digital terrestrial television and HbbTV based products and services.
In Nordic region (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Ireland) the NorDig standardization forum has adopted the HbbTV specification which replaces DVB-MHP as the common API for hybrid digital receivers.
In Finland the national HDTV Forum has adopted the NorDig Unified Specification for Hybrid Services. The members of HDTV Forum see the HbbTV specification having a wide market acceptance supporting wide range of TV applications and new hybrid services. HbbTV services have been on air in Finland since March 2013 in the nation-wide terrestrial TV network. Current services include 'red button' services and an enhanced programme guide application.
SBS Australia, along with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation are investigating HbbTV, with initial plans to start broadcasting their On Demand and iView products through the service from May 2014.
The Seven Network announced in May 2013 they would begin a HbbTV service in the second quarter of 2014. Seven have since announced that the service will be operating by May 2014. More details have since been released of a branded channel called healthyMEtv that will be one of the first offerings on Seven's HbbTV service and will be a partnership with Brand New Media.
On September 2, 2014, HbbTV will start broadcasting its first channels in Australia under its licensed name 'FreeviewPlus' 
HbbTV is being reviewed and tested, with interest from US, Argentina, Japan, China (which is conducting a trial) and Malaysian Broadcasters (where DVB-T2 broadcasting will soon start).
HbbTV set-top boxes
Since the beginning of 2010 a new generation of advanced HbbTV IPTV set-top box has emerged in the UK with the advent of DVB-T2 services. DVB-T2 tuners enable the reception of free-to-air terrestrial high-definition programmes to be received in around twelve areas of the UK.
High definition digital terrestrial services have encouraged a range of device manufacturers to launch new hybrid set-top boxes for the UK consumer retail market. Some of these companies have launched devices that, in addition to allowing traditional broadcast and IP-delivered services to be received, have an integrated smart-card slot that allows consumers to receive encrypted Premium television services including sports and movies.
Such boxes enable the aggregation of traditional linear TV broadcasts with video delivered via both managed (cable) and unmanaged IP networks (the internet). This allows viewers to view broadcast television and internet video on their flat screen TVs, alongside advanced interactive services, such as video on demand, internet browsing, and time-shifted TV.
A hybrid IPTV platform helps operators increase average revenue per user (ARPU), whilst eliminating expensive duplication in network infrastructure investment. IPTV customer-premises equipment (CPE) allows pay TV operators to deploy home entertainment, with video telephony, surveillance, gaming, shopping, e-government, and interactive services amongst the service mix that can be offered.
OpenHbb is a collaborative project funded by the French government (DGCIS), the Pays de la Loire and Île-de-France regions, and the Conseil Général des Hauts-de-Seine (council for the department of Hauts-de-Seine) as part of the Images & Réseaux and Cap Digital competitiveness clusters.
Opera has developed an HbbTV Emulator, available for free on their website. This emulator is currently in beta version.
There is also a Firefox add-on, FireHbbTV, as a free HbbTV emulator.
OpenCaster is a free GPL licensed software for transport stream broadcasting supporting HbbTV data .
Security and privacy concerns
Academic research by Columbia University has revealed possible security flaws in HbbTV. According to the blog of Martin Herfurt (referenced in the Columbia paper), the HbbTV standard allows an attacker to inject malware into an HbbTV-enabled smart television that can cause it to do various things like modifying the content being displayed, mining Bitcoins, or attacking other devices connected to the network that the television is connected to.
The HbbTV Association has responded to the reports with a statement "HbbTV welcomes and appreciates the academic research on security threats in set-top boxes and TVs based on our specifications. The HbbTV Association continuously reviews such situations and has determined that there is limited potential for a security breach based on this research. Nevertheless, as ever, our upcoming HbbTV specification will include further appropriate security solutions."
- Smart TV
- Inview Technology
- Globally Executable MHP
- YouView, formerly known as Project Canvas
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